Dead bodies have reportedly piled up in hospital lobbies as India’s capital fast runs out of hospital beds and struggles to contain the pandemic amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
It comes after critics said it did too little to prepare and reopened shopping malls and temples too soon.
Some families of people infected with COVID-19 have complained about having to hunt for beds for their relatives after hospitals turned them away.
Others said patients had been left unattended in corridors of government-run hospitals, while local media reports of dead bodies in a hospital lobby prompted the Supreme Court to order the state administration to get its act together.
‘I don’t think we expected that cases would rise this much,’ said a lawmaker of the Aam Aadmi party that runs the capital, who asked not to be named. ‘We were so over-confident.’
The office of New Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the city’s health authorities did not respond to requests for comment.
In a novel way to create beds for coronavirus patients, India has been transforming out-of-action trains into Covid-19 care centres.
At the start of the pandemic, Indian Railways pledged to convert as many as 20,000 train carriages into isolation wards, fitted with curtained-off beds, a nurses’ station, doctor’s cabin and space for medical supplies.
As many as 5,231 coaches have so far been converted into Covid-19 care centres, according to Railway Board Chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav. Less than a month ago, Kejriwal said the city’s hospitals were well equipped to fight the virus as the lockdown had given authorities enough time to prepare. ‘Delhi will win, corona will lose,’ he said.
While Delhi had around 10,000 novel coronavirus cases at that time, the number had jumped to 41,000 on Monday. India’s total numbers stood at 332,424, with Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai fueling the rise in infections.
A lockdown is set to be reimposed on 15 million people living in the Indian city of Chennai from Friday until the end of June, as cases rise in the region.
‘Full Lockdown from 19th for Chennai, Thiruvallur, Chengalpet & Kanchipuram districts,’ the Tamil Nadu state government tweeted.
Cases in the capital are set to surge. The government estimates it will have 550,000 COVID-19 cases by the end of July, around 13 times current numbers, and will require 150,000 beds by then.
On Monday a government mobile app showed that of Delhi’s 9,940 COVID-19 beds, almost 5,500 were occupied. Of the 108 private and public hospitals listed in the app, 25 had no beds available.
The reopenings were decided nationally, but the state of Maharashtra where Mumbai is located, for example, kept restrictions in place to contain the outbreak.
‘They (Delhi authorities) probably under-estimated the possibility of a rise of infection and its spread, or the models they used then did not seem to indicate the spread they are seeing now,’ said Bhan.
Following harsh words from the Supreme Court, India’s federal government said it would provide 500 railway coaches to be converted into COVID-19 care centres for the capital.
- India, (Daily Mail),
15 June 2020